Thursday, October 04, 2018

Orlando Watt's Recital of "Words" Excerpt

Many years, shortly after I first discovered YouTube, which probably would have been not long before I began blogging here, I had the idea to begin posting short clips of myself reading poems by other poets that I loved. Then clarity struck and I realized that this would mean that I'd have to film myself reading the poems, and my naturally shyness, technical ignorance and concern for violating unknown copyright strictures got the better of me, and that idea remained just that. Of course countless other people decided to do something similar, as well as recording their own poems specifically for a YouTube viewership, so I would have hardly been alone in this project. Not long after Seismosis, my collaboration with poet and artist Christopher Stackhouse, appeared, someone named Kinomode created a lovely short video, inspired by the book, that I deeply enjoyed. If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, inspiration drawn from a pre-existing work is one of the finest tributes. When the Black Poets Speak Out movement, organized by Ebony Stewart and Amanda Johnson, began, I originally planned to contribute a video, but shyness overtook me, and so my support was with them, but in the realms of concept and affect.

Fast forward to recently, when I received a request for a list of YouTube URLs to videos of me reading or discussing my work. There aren't many, but I dutifully compiled what existed, and sent them along. (There is or was one on Vimeo, I think, pairing Chris and me as we read from Seismosis; I still had dreadlocks then, and over the years I periodically have encountered younger poets who found the recitation in unison thrilling. That was directly inspired by one of my dazzlingly smart former Northwestern undergraduate students, Tai Little, who wrote a senior thesis novella that included a double-columned passage that she invited classmates to perform live; it was thrilling to hear, and in fact embodied the disorientation she was aiming to convey in her narrative.) At any rate, in my YouTube search I came across something I had never seen before, which was someone reciting one of my poems, and I have to say, I love it.

I do not know the performer, a young man named Orlando Watt. But he takes my poem "Words," which appeared earlier this year on the Academy of American Poets Poetry Daily website, and brings it to life in his own distinctive way. I have read the poem a number of times, very differently from, but it was a delight to see and hear his take, using a brief excerpt of the poem as a monologue, perhaps for an audition. His accent and the way he paces the words and shifts the emphases got me to think about what I had written and how the music in my head transferred to and was transformable on the page. Now that I am posting the link to the video here, I also will post a note of thank you below the video itself. And maybe, if I can find the time and now that cellphones are much easier to handle than the older digital video cameras, post a few videos of myself reading poems--by others!

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